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Monday - March 29, 2010

From: Arlington, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Erosion Control
Title: Shrubs for erosion protection in Arlington TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We live on Johnson Creek in Arlington, Tx. We have recently had to move our fenceline in because the erosion on the creek has collapsed a portion of our retaining wall. I would like to plant something on the outside part of the fence to help hold the soil, provide privacy, grow large, and require little maintenance (evergreen). I was thinking about red tip photinias. What do you think? The fence is on the west side of the property. It might be considered a "partly sunny" area. Even though it's on the west side, the fence would block the morning sun, and during the latter spring and summer, the trees on the creek have a lot of foliage. Thanks for your time!


Having lived in Arlington some time ago, for 38 years, this particular member of the Mr. Smarty Plants team is aware of the situation on Johnson Creek, although we were not personally affected. As we recall, some homes were actually removed because they were threatened by erosion. It would seem that the heavy rains that North Central Texas has had this year has renewed that threat. This may not be a problem that plants can solve, but we will try to make some suggestions.

The first thing we will recommend is that you NOT use red tip photinias.  The red-tip photinia is non-native to North America, originating in the Far East. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are committed to the planting, protection and propagation of plants native to North America. Native plants are recommended because they are adapted to an area's soil, rainfall, heat (or cold), and so require less water, less fertilizer, less maintenance. Here is a quote from a Mississippi State University Extension Service Red-tip Photinia Almost Eliminated

"Red-tip is highly susceptible to the fungal pathogen known as Entomosporium that causes leaf spots and ultimately defoliation. The disease has all but eliminated Red-tip from the list of recommended shrubs for Southern landscapes. In fact, the disease is so widespread that one plant pathologist jokingly explained that there are two types of Red-tip, those that have the disease and those that are going to get it!"

Ordinarily, we would recommend native grasses to help prevent erosion, but you know your property better than we do, so we will try to find some evergreen shrubs that will do all right in part shade, which we consider to be 2 to 6 hours of sun a day. We will go to Recommended Species, click on North Central Texas, and select on "shrub" under Habit, and "part shade" under light requirements. This search only yielded 4 plants that filled all your specifications. If you wish, you can repeat this search procedure and make selections of your own. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that particular plant to learn more about it. You should probably select these shrubs and plant them soon before the extreme heat of the summer gets here, to prevent transplant shock.

Shrubs for Arlington TX:

Cephalanthus occidentalis (common buttonbush)

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon)

Mahonia trifoliolata (agarita)

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Ilex vomitoria

Mahonia trifoliolata

Morella cerifera





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